Most years, the expectation is that SXSW Interactive will be the launch pad for the year’s hot new app or service (indeed, Twitter and Foursquare debuted here). While pre-conference buzz hinted at the breakthrough potential of various technologies, 2012 might best be remembered as the year that “killer apps” were overshadowed by overarching and forward-looking themes. Below are some of the key ideas from this week’s conference.
Bettering the World: Gen Ys believe that innovation is key to saving the planet. Among the tech crowd, there’s no lack of ideas for how to accomplish this. Napster founder Sean Parker and former VP Al Gore discussed technology’s ability to facilitate direct democracy, citing political startups such as NationBuilder, Votizen, and Causes. Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka laid out a new opportunity for techies to serve their country by designing simple, beautiful, and intuitive interfaces, and also lauded the growth potential of civic startups like See Click Fix and NeighborGoods. Unsurprisingly, game mechanics were often referenced as a behavioral motivator, with online application Recyclebank and Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter serving as prime examples.
Blogging Code of Conduct: A debate about the responsibility of online curators and aggregators to credit those who generate or uncover original content has heated up. Two proposals aiming to standardize online attribution were launched during SXSWi. “Cultural curator” Maria Popova—best known by her blog/Twitter handle, Brain Pickings—announced the Curator’s Code, a system of symbols that allows bloggers to express where content originates. Meanwhile, Ad Age media columnist Simon Dumenco, along with editors from the likes of The Atlantic and Esquire, formed the Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation. While many scoffed at the notion of taming the blogosphere, giving credit where credit is due continues to be a hot button issue.
Privacy: Pre-conference forecasts held that ambient social apps such as Glancee and Banjo would be this year’s most buzzed about products (indeed, social app Highlight broke through the clutter). But on the heels of The White House’s “Privacy Bill of Rights,” consumer privacy and protection took center stage. Identity management tool Gliph launched a new mobile app that allows users to offer pseudonyms, rather than entire social profiles, to new acquaintances. Personal, just one of a new wave of personal data vaults, enables users to store and control their digital information, from passwords to emergency contacts. Meanwhile, photo-sharing tool deGeo allows for the removal of embedded geotags before sharing photos online.